Thursday, January 21, 2016

OK, fivethirtyeight, what's your deal?

I very much understand and am sympathetic towards's dismissal of early polling showing trump in leading the republican field, which historically have lacked predictive value. Via Nate Silver in November:
Lately, pundits and punters seem bullish on Donald Trump, whose chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination recently inched above 20 percent for the first time at the betting market Betfair. Perhaps the conventional wisdom assumes that the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris will play into Trump’s hands, or that Republicans really might be in disarray. If so, I can see where the case for Trump is coming from, although I’d still say a 20 percent chance is substantially too high....At this point in the 2012 nomination cycle, 10 weeks before the Iowa caucuses, only 16 percent of the eventual total of Google searches had been conducted. 

OK, Nate.  It's now less than 2 weeks till the Iowa Caucuses and trump is still up by 1.5% in the RCP average for Iowa, 20% in New Hampshire and 16 points nationally.  So when can we start freaking out about Donald Trump's polls?  Particularly considering the GOP delegate allocation rules.

538 crew, isn't it time to face the fact that only The Donald can Make American Groot Again?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bernie vs Hillary

As the photo implies, it's not exactly a no holds barred, bloody fight to the death with these two.  They've been almost shockingly cordial and policy oriented in their face-offs so far.  But it's the big question for dems right now: Bernie or Hillary?  Can he even win the nomination?  If he can, do I want him to?  I really am undecided for a raft of reasons.

So what do others think?  Please comment and discuss.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Madame President? Maybe not.

Is it time to degenderize the formal address for the office of the President, so it's not Mr. President and Madam President?  We've (mostly) gotten rid of actress and waitress and stewardess in favor of gender neutral terms (which i once found annoying but now realize is pretty obviously right).  So isn't it time that we did the same for what will be arguably the greatest feminist professional achievement in US history, instead of addressing a female president like it's 1885 and she shouldn't even be allowed to vote?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Fake (but actually quite real) Gun Background Check Loophole

So for people who oppose Obama's policy change to expand background checks for gun purchases, I have a couple questions.

Q1) Do you think the loophole exists, or that it's a lie made up by the President?  

If you think it's a lie, well then first off you shouldn't care about this at all because nothing would change.  But it's also not a lie.  Here's some facts.
  Study finds vast online marketplace for guns without background check 
 Gun shows and the lack of uniform gun-control laws provide easy access to guns that can be used for criminal purposes, according to a new report from the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research 
The report features hundreds of photographs and some video that show: 
illegal straw purchases, whereby a surrogate buys from a licensed retailer on behalf of another
anonymous, undocumented private-party gun sales
widespread availability of assault weapons, .50-caliber rifles and the parts needed to make untraceable guns
links between gun shows and the neo-Confederacy movement and neo-Nazism
Q2) If you do believe the gun show loophole exists, and that there's widespread evidence it's used for illegal purchases by criminals, do you think we should fix it?

Q3) If you don't believe we should fix it and prevent criminals and the mentally ill from getting firearms, while at the same time allowing law abiding citizens to purchase guns to their heart's content, then.....what the fuck?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Spousal Privilege and Disqualification in the Cosby Case

Magistrate Judge David H. Hennessy ruled that Bill Cosby's wife could not quash a subpoena for a deposition regarding the sexual assault charges against her husband.  I was curious about why, so I read through the ruling and some other case law, and found the the law was more complex that I had thought.  First off, in Massachusetts, spousal privilege not to testify and spousal disqualification from testifying are different things with different sets of rules.  Second, both have a myriad of exceptions and qualifications.  Hennessy's main contention is that Cosby asserted that the Disqualification Law, which would bar testimony at trial but not deposition as part of the discovery process.  Hennessy writes:

As she concedes, the marital disqualification rule “is one of disqualification and not of privilege,” and therefore concerns a party's competence to testify. See Com. v. Azar, 32 Mass. App. Ct. 290, 304 (1992). It is settled that "[t]he mere fact that a party may not be mentally competent to testify is not a sufficient reason to prohibit the other party from taking his deposition." Dang ex rel. Dang v. Eslinger, No. 14 Civ. 37, 2014 WL 3611324, at *2 (M.D. Fla. July 22, 2014) (citing cases). This is due, at least in part, to the fact that even though an incompetent witness’s testimony “might not be admissible at trial, his deposition could lead to admissible evidence.” See Fjellman v. Forest Hill Co-op., No. 06 Civ. 14470, 2007 WL 1806173, at *3 (E.D. Mich. June 21, 2007); see also Bucher v. Richardson Hosp. Auth., 160 F.R.D. 88, 93 (N.D. Tex. 1994) (“[P]laintiff is not entitled to quash the deposition merely because J.B. may be incompetent to testify at trial. The right to depose a witness and the right to use that testimony in court are separate and distinct.”) (citing United States v. International Business Machines Corp., 90 F.R.D. 377, 381 n.7 (S.D.N.Y. 1981)).6

The judge also argues that the undue burden argument fails because Cosby fails to show any undue burden.

I also found this 1990 Massachusetts case which covers the same issue, comes to the same conclusion, but with different reasoning.  This decision hinged on the business relationship between the spouses saying:
In the present case, the court concludes that business communications between spouses acting solely in the capacity of employer and employee are not protected conversation under G.L. c. 233, § 20. The court relies on the fact that when a conversation occurs in such circumstances, the marital relationship is only incidental to the employer-employee relationship. The two speakers, acting in their professional capacities, do not fit the terms “husband and wife” in an important sense. Moreover, excluding conversations made in an employer-employee relationship would not further most of the policy reasons behind the statute.  Therefore, G.L. c. 233, § 20 does not disqualify purely business conversations made by husband and wife when they are acting as employer and employee and where their marital relationship is incidental to the conversation.  

And I'm surprised Hennessey didn't cite this case as well, since Cosby's wife served as his business manager as well.

Your Conservative Friends Are Just Victims of Propoganda (As are we all...)

I saw some statistics today that made me think about something that I think many who have center-left or even liberal political leanings already inherently know, but which is rarely actually flushed out. David Atkins at the Washington Monthly touched on it in a post yesterday about the demographic that the Republican candidates seem to be focusing on, namely the angry 20-30% of the population that is either obsessed with gun rights, anti-immigration, or vehemently against a raise in taxes for the wealthy.

What he doesn't touch on there, (despite noting that 88% of Americans support stronger background checks for gun purchases, 70% of Americans support comprehensive immigration reform, and 63% support raising taxes on the wealthy), is that the angry 20-30% of the population they are focusing on DOESN'T KNOW THEY ARE IN THE MINORITY.

In fact, most of these people, due to the media distortion on both the right and left, the echo-chamber effect that comes from listening only to those views that support your own side, and the inherent inertia of viewpoints built up over their long lives, believe themselves to be part of the "Silent Majority."  This was a term coined by Nixon for the supposed majority of the country that believed in old fashioned values, or whatever it was he supported at the time.  Obviously, with the rise of social media, these people are far from silent.  However, they believe that the viewpoints they hold and trumpet in their latest Facebook post or Twitter rant, most of them fed to them by Fox News are held by a majority of Americans and they are merely the only brave soul willing to stand up to the insidious takeover by liberals who they believe to be a smaller subset of the population forcing their views on others.  Donald Trump is currently bringing back the idea of the Silent Majority at his rallies, notably in Alabama of all places.

The fault here lies with the media.  They of course refer to it as the 'liberal media,' and truth be told there is a fair amount of liberal media out there doing the same damage to its viewers and listeners all in the name of ratings and profits.  However, when the most profitable news cable news network by far is Fox News, and yet they still manage to brand themselves as the underdog standing up to big media, you can see the manipulation they are working on their viewers.  These viewers should be offended... clearly the network doesn't think much of them if it so callously manipulates them (mainly to the ends of the corporations they are currently raging at).

That being said, the point of this post is probably something along the lines of...  Your conservative friends on social media are brainwashed by right wing propaganda, and its not really their fault if they believe the NRA's views, endorsed by only approximately 12% of the population, are what the majority of the country stands behind.  Any proper news story should quote the above statistics, even if they want to editorialize against majority opinion. However, leading their viewers to believe that they are learning from Fox what the true majority of Americans believe is journalistic malpractice, and has lead to Fox News viewers being the least informed Americans. We get some brainwashing from our own echo-chamber as well, and as I've stated in the past we should all just stop watching cable news altogether, particularly any show that purports to put up two people arguing each side...  which is just an invitation to watch idiots.  If you want to see some fun political arguments, go watch the excellent documentary Best of Enemies. (Although those televised debates are pretty much what lead us to this current wasteland.)